By Pebble Roomer – 23 August 2019
In any country, administration of protection of copyright for the interest and benefit of creative people and the Government is a must. As a matter of fact, according to the Berne Convention, one basic human right of creative people is the protection of their economic and moral rights.
Dishearteningly, the degree of technological advancement and playing on the naivety of majority of the copyright owners themselves, (with respect to the protection of their rights) by the smart merchants in the industry, are making it easy for piracy, infringement, violation and other offences to be perpetuated unimpeded. These are tantamount to criminal offences, punishable by fines and imprisonment.
Worse still, copyright pirates are causing incalculable damage to the economy of the State as the laws are not enforced. This problem is so serious that most writers, artists and actors, music and film producers are not rightfully benefitting from their works. The minute an artist produces an album it is pirated all over the country freely. The moment a film is produced it is freely seen bootlegged along the streets. Writers too suffer such piracy.
To avert the menace, the method has to be according to the law. Hon. Memunatu Pratt has to open a Copyright Protection office and get the Act implemented!
The Act details the basics, the legal rudiments of the subject; the prerequisite for copyright ownership, the nitty-gritties of binding principles in the use of copyright works and limiting statutes on practices in the copyright business field. It highlights protection of authors and performers, broadcasting houses, sound recording producers and audio-visual producers. It specifies the aspects of registration of copyright works and payment of royalty to copyright owners.
It accentuates the plenipotentiary role of the Registrar, in respect of the administration of the Copyright Act. It emphasizes the establishment of the Collecting Society, pertinent ad hoc committees like the Board, the General Assembly and more important the running of the office by the Executive Secretary, and the management of finances.
Most of all, it expounds on copyright infringement and enforcement of Copyright case arbitration.
The ultimate aim of the legal code is to establish a Collecting Society, pursuant to Section 54 and 70 of the Copyright Act 2011.
Unfortunately, since the enactment of the Copyright Act 2011 in Sierra Leone, no fruitful attempt has been made by any Government to put in place a Collecting Society.
The SLPP Government with Hon. Memunatu Pratt in the concerned Ministry has to do it now and actualise entrustment of the enforcement of the law by the National Copyright Protection Corporation (NCPC), so that when entrepreneurs in the field of copyright trade fail to comply with the law of the nation, the Copyright Tribunal of the NCPC shall handle them according to the law.
With the music, film and literary industries gradually booming, the copyright owners and performing artists stand to benefit a great deal out of the implementation of the right modality of protection of their economic and moral rights, through royalty collection and distribution of remuneration (as salaries) to them, for their good works, as it is happening in other countries. Why not Sierra Leone?
The artists themselves would not be fighting their cases on their own. The NCPC shall pursue their cases for them. As the Performing Right Society (PRS) does in UK and the American Society for Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) is doing in US.
As prescribed in the Act, fair, balance and just terms of contracts have been prepared for merchants in the producing, publishing and distributing businesses, to ensure that the genuine owners of the copyright reap realistic benefits out of their profound knowledge and talent. License, clearance and permit to carry out certain acts, have been prepared in order to cut down illicit dubbing of sound and audio-visual recordings, for commercial exploitation. Both civil remedies and criminal sanctions have to be applied for serious infringement of the law and the theft in the business of copyright trade.
There is much scope for advancement, development and improvement of production, promotion, publication and distribution in the copyright industry for creative products of Sierra Leoneans to do well in the international market as mobiliser of foreign currency, for big income to flow into the country. In fact regional agreements could come to pass among Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Ghana, Guinea, Gambia, Liberia and other ECOWAS states, to collect and share royalties with each other.
Besides, multi-national enterprises could be sought to invest in the copyright industry, for the potential financial benefits that the government might reap, in the mid to long-term future. More employment could even be created if the NCPC office is functioning.
Most of all, the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), the ECOWAS Copyright Division, United Nations and other international bodies can offer in-kind contribution, sponsor pertinent programs and give educational, technical and human resource assistances.
With all due respect, this media appeal has to culminate on admonition to the Hon. Minister not to give deaf ears and turn blind eyes to this newspaper imploration for her implementation of the Act.
The NCPC has drawn up expedient plan of action geared towards perfecting the system for the protection and commercialisation of copyright works, to complement the government’s effort in harnessing sustained economic growth.
Above all else, through the commitment and contribution of the Barrister and Solicitor of the High Court, Augustine T. Ansumana, and former FBC lecturer of Intellectual property, Patrick George,NCPC has also been able to formulate all pertinent working documents including the White Paper, the Structure and the organogram, for the bureaucratic work of administration of the protection of copyright in Sierra Leone.
Hon. Memunatu Pratt has to reach for the High Court lawyer and the former FBC lecturer and then call the Copyright Protection Administrator into active service, to marshal the opening and running of the NCPC office, for the moral advantage and financial benefit of the SLPP government!